Can I really claim
To understand you,
You who've given me my life, my mind?
Your art, your music
Are shallow, trivial
Seen against the imposing masterworks
Of the Old World.
You have surpassed the Old World
In so many other ways:
Land of freedom, innovation, and intense
Spared the knife of the German Blitzkrieg,
No Stalin to torture and murder your people,
While Europe gasped and groaned in the aftermath
Of relentless carnage,
You alone were able to smile on the world.
In those days
You were like Siegfried,
Brash and brazen-spirited,
Fearlessly routing dragons,
Waking sleeping Brunnhildes with your
Meek, uncomprehending kisses.
Throwing off decrepit Mimes and
Breaking the moribund spears of tyrants,
It was you who reforged Europe's broken sword,
You, the mad and foolish youth.
What others called your folly became your strength;
You shone upon the world with your down-home,
Grinning, "can do", Yankee heroism;
Gave to the world the automobile, the airplane,
More recently the computer.
Even your name is beautiful:
Every syllable like the wise and gentle meanderings
Of the Mississippi
No harsh, guttural consonants,
No shrieking long vowels.
A lover's lips could scarcely whisper
A sweeter name.
There are those who would say
That you are aging,
That the worms of Time have found your heart,
That your beauty is dying,
Cursed by the cares and advancing neuroses of your people:
Streets infested with beggars and the homeless,
Your cities infected with drug addicts and violent crime.
Murderers mock your justice;
The scapegoat government shudders and writhes
With the pangs of the changing seasons.
But I don't believe them,
These raving Cassandras prophesying their
Imminent doom on our heads,
For there is something yet irrepressible,
Something decidely wholesome
Which remains even today
In the heart of our country:
The Yankee spirit.
It is not a genius given to the eloquence of Shakespeare or Cicero,
Or the suave artistic cultivation of Voltaire and Debussy,
But to the sober sense of Jefferson, Paine, and Franklin,
And the enterprise of Ford, Edison, and the Wright Brothers.
England's corn-fed daughter,
Bright in your doll-gold locks and blue-jeans,
Mother of steel tycoons and truck drivers,
Cowboys and Texas politicians,
Blues, jazz, and rock 'n roll,
Hollywood and the Big Mac,
Comforter of the oppressed from nations abroad;
Wooing the best, most innovative minds
With your Ken and Barbie smiles,
The promises of your fertile fields
And your industrious cities of the future:
The tireless engine of the world,
You are America still.
George Chadderdon © 1996